Speech by Minister of State Pieper at the opening of the conference “Continents under Climate Change”, 21 April 2010

28.04.2010 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text--

Mr President,

Professor Schellnhuber,

Professor Berg,

Excellencies, Eminences,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me bid you a warm welcome to this conference on Continents under Climate Change here at the Federal Foreign Office.

The 200th anniversary of the Humboldt University’s foundation is an auspicious occasion on which to hold a conference devoted to such a fundamental and important issue as climate change.

I am extremely pleased that the Humboldt University in Berlin, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina have joined forces to organize this conference here in the German Federal Foreign Office.

This cooperation between the various scientific institutions and the Federal Foreign Office symbolizes what is needed in the fight against climate change and its consequences. We need cooperation between very different players from the scientific and political fields in order to bring their specific qualifications to bear in tackling the shared task.

If we want to succeed in our efforts to prevent irreversible global warming and at the same time adapt to those consequences of climate change that are unavoidable, we must face that task as a broad-based alliance.

We need highly effective and excellent climate science, we need universities which give their students a rigorous training and which bring forth new ideas. We need a basic consensus in our society on what to do about climate protection. We need strong and innovative business which can create the new technologies we require.

I could go on, but my intention is not to give you a complete list, but rather to emphasize that today climate protection is no longer a specialist task for the relevant experts.

On the contrary, climate protection is a cross-cutting task for politics, business, science and society as a whole, one which can only be successfully tackled through global cooperation.

It is an immense undertaking, and how we address it will have far reaching effects on whole continents and on the entire international community.

It is therefore self-explanatory that the Federal Foreign Office now takes global climate change and the requirements of global climate protection into account when planning and implementing Germany’s foreign policy. Climate policy is a major part of our foreign policy which is aimed at achieving and maintaining peace and security.

We want to use the foreign policy tools at our disposal to avoid global instabilities and to help the developing world in particular adapt to climate change.

Following the unsatisfactory conclusion of the Copenhagen Climate Conference, foreign-policy backing is more important than ever before in the fight for a global climate-protection regime.

It is therefore clear that German diplomacy, both here in Berlin and at our foreign missions worldwide, also focuses on this issue.

German foreign policy must always be synonymous with peace and security. Climate change, as forecast by reliable scientific methods, unfortunately threatens living conditions in many regions of the world, thus also jeopardizing the coexistence of nations.

Regardless of whether these changes in living conditions are specifically due to rising sea levels, extreme weather events, increasing drought or other factors, they force people exposed to them to change and adapt.

Severely impacted areas are the small island states which just a few years ago were only in the news as paradise holiday destinations. Today, however, their very existence is threatened by the rising sea.

Moreover, we must assume that world population levels will rise sharply, leading to increased use of existing natural resources and – together with climate change – to conflicts of interest.

Without summoning up the danger of “climate wars”, it is obvious that climate change cannot be left unchecked.

For us as political and scientific leaders this represents a major challenge.

There is a constant danger that existing disputes can be markedly worsened by climate change and lead to military conflicts. This is why we are well advised to take countermeasures in good time. Climate-protection policy is therefore preventive security policy.

There are, however, other equally good reasons to combat climate change. One very important aim, which also helps reduce tensions, is the sustainable development of poorer countries.

The world’s poorest, most vulnerable countries are those at greatest risk from the negative consequences of global warming. If these effects are not kept manageable, it is the poorest nations which will be deprived of their development opportunities.

Development is every nation’s inalienable right, and we have long supported the poorest countries through our many development-cooperation projects.

Climate-protection policy is therefore also development policy. For that reason development policy is increasingly oriented towards climate change and adapting to its impact.

Climate policy is also concrete economic policy. Even leaving the dangers of climate change out of the equation, it is both wise and economically reasonable to take preventive measures to convert our economy to alternative, renewable energy sources in good time.

Climate policy is an example of how to make a virtue of necessity, as it brings with it huge economic opportunities.

In many fields German business is the number one provider of climate-friendly products. It expects German politics to create a reliable international framework for business activities.

The experts speak here of the “level playing field”. This means that politics has the task of making sure German business has equal opportunities in the global marketplace.

We want to fulfil these expectations in the best way we can, because climate policy can and indeed will only be successful if it holds out reasonable prospects for business.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Climate-protection policy is also practical energy security policy, as the damaging greenhouse-gas emissions mostly come from burning fossil fuels. We must get used to the fact that in particular the usable oil resources will run out in the not too distant future.

Proposals for future energy supplies are already being discussed which only a few years ago were the stuff of science-fiction novels. Today we build huge wind parks out at sea, and it is becoming ever more possible that solar energy will one day be generated in large-scale facilities in the Sahara and transmitted to Central Europe.

Climate policy is also research and innovation policy. Investment in climate research and education is investment in the future, since it also benefits our children and grandchildren.

Climate scientists can tell us with ever greater precision what the earth’s climate was like hundreds of thousands of years ago. In this way they are creating ever better instruments with which to predict future climate trends.

This is why we are right to expressly support science in this field and to create the necessary conditions.

Our task is also to accept and make practical use of new knowledge, options and conditions. The future will require us to conclude new partnerships, find new cooperation forms, and share our knowledge.

Your conference programme promises three highly interesting days, during which you will discuss climate change and its impact on all parts of the world.

This conference on Continents under Climate Change brings together globally-renowned scientists. We are hoping for expert, high level scientific debates.

In this way you will play a major role in improving awareness of the climate issue and its global dimension.

Climate change is one of the main issues facing humankind this century, and so it is only right that Continents under Climate Change was designed to be not only a conference for experts but to be accessible to a wider audience.

The Alexander von Humboldt University could not have chosen a more topical theme, at the interface of politics and science, for its 200th anniversary. You are thus being true to Alexander von Humboldt, a universal scholar with a global reputation, after whom your university was named.

I wish your conference, which you will hold here in the Weltsaal and in the Europasaal, the best of success!

Thank you for your attention.

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